worship leading essentials #6: Skill or Spiritual maturity?

“I get excited when I some of our worship team start becoming Christians.” What? My friend Greg Telle and I were standing in the middle of a Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. The comment came from the worship pastor. I remember looking at him and saying “Huh?” He went on to say that they used musicians from all walks of life. Many of them were in other bands, touring the local scene. He did make the comment that he rarely had a problem with musicians who normally played the bars. They wouldn’t complain about monitors and other things, they were just happy to play. They were in a good atmosphere and some were becoming followers of Christ. No doubt they were highly skilled. Skill outranks spirituality.

On the other side of the coin is Matt Redman. In a small gathering with Matt, he said that you should always use totally devoted Christians. He contended that worship is sacred and should be led by those who have given their life to Christ. Spirituality outranks skill.

So which is it? Is it a requirement that your worship team be followers of Jesus? Does it matter? Do you base your requirements on spiritual maturity or skill?

This question has to be wrestled with. What do you think?

We have had to wrestle with this over the years. I am pretty happy where we have landed.

At exchange, we have a group of musicians (about 25) which we call the “musician’s pool.” Each week we pick from the pool and make a band. Most of the people we use are people who have committed their life to Christ and are part of exchange. In our audition process, we explain that when you are on stage, people look at you and assume that you are sold out to the cause of Christ. Like it or not, that is the way it is.

Do we use people who are not followers of Christ? Yes. I know that sounds hypocritical, but let me explain. There are occasions when we invite people to come and be part of the band for a gathering or two. The only reason they initially come is to play. If we can get them hooked to the kingdom by an invitation to play occasionally, I can totally justify that. We are honest and up front with people on this. If, after a while, they drop out of exchange, or only show up when they play, we have another conversation. As a matter of fact, I got a call from a guy who had not played or been to exchange for a long time. “Let me know if you need me to play, I would love to play.” I told him I would love for him to play but first step was to get back and get settled in exchange. He has yet to come back.

I do think that we have a responsibility to lead with integrity. I also believe that Christ is passionate about those who have yet to know him. If that means that we risk putting up someone who is less that sold out in hopes that they come to know Christ, I’ll take the risk.

So, what has been your experience with skill and spiritual maturity?

[tags]worship, worship leading, Matt Redman, Vineyard, skill, maturity, band, musicians[/tags]

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21 thoughts on “worship leading essentials #6: Skill or Spiritual maturity?

  1. how can we expect someone who is not born of the spirit to be able to lead (or assist in leading) others in worship, which is supposed to be done in spirit and truth (john 4:24)?

    one must be born again to properly worship and/or lead worship.

    how can expect someone who is not properly skilled to lead (or assist in leading) worship, which is to be done skillfully (psalm 33:3)?

    one must be able to play skilfully unto the Lord to properly lead worship.

    let the same Lord who gives His Spirit freely to those who ask, give the Skill necessary for leading that He would be pleased and glorified.

    we can not remove one or the other, both are required.

  2. Good comments Isaac. Let me stir it a bit more. How would you handle a guy who says that he is open to God (seeking) but has not made a committment and would like to play bass once in a while?

  3. i’m all for “inclusion” over “exclusion” but when it comes to “worship” there is a certain distinction to be made.

    we wouldn’t hire a chef to fix a problem with our plumbing…would we? no. a chef is not qualified to fix the problem.

    in the same manner, someone who is not born of god is not able to lead others in the worship of god. unfortunately, i would need to deny the “guy” any role in the band until evidence is presented that he is walking with god.

    the same can be said for someone who is born of god but has zero talent musically. unfortunately, i would to deny this “guy” any role in the band because his lack of skill would cause a distraction in the process of leading others.

    sounds harsh but this is where the true missional life is to be achieved.

    after denial, ministry must occur.

    to the unskilled, get him lessons. do everything possible to train him in a way that will allow him to fulfill the desire which was given to him by god. it will take time but before long, he will be able to join the team.

    to the unsaved, get him saved. teach him in the way of the lord. as he falls in love with the word and walks in the spirit, his life will evidence proper fruits. once this witness is perceived, it is time to get this most talented man on the team.

    even when god makes us promises, they take time. abraham waited a long time for isaac. the children of israel waited a long time before entering the promised land. we today are waiting for him to return…how long must we wait???

    just because we have the desire for things to happen immediately doesn’t make it the best or the right choice for the current moment. that desire may be for something that will come to pass 20-30-40-50 years down the road.

    at 16, i desired to be a father. i had never worked a full time job and was only a junior in high school. if i had fulfilled my desire, i would have needed to drop out of high school immediately in order to work and would have forced a “good thing” to become burdensome. now at 25, i am a father. i finished school. i got married. and the lord gave me a daughter…and it is a beautiful thing.

    remember, obedience over sacrifice (1 sam 15:22)

    sorry for the length.

  4. in addition…

    if flea (red hot chili peppers) was to approach me about joining my worship band, i would need to consider his lifestyle. flea is well known for his nude appearances and “sinful” lifestyle. until he shows proof that he walks with god, he can not lead (or assist in leading) people in worship.

    however, he would be a valuable asset to current band members. he could teach technique and methods. he could teach theory. he could do all of the practical things to assist the team. but on spiritual things, he offers nothing and therefore can not be a part of the band.

    although, it would be extremely tempting to let it happen…flea leading the people of god in worship.

    lord, let it be done!

  5. Well put Isaac. I am now convicted enough to take down my Red Hot Chili Peppers posters:> Kidding!

    It really is so much bigger then the music, isn’t it? Which brings up another area of leadeship – how we continue to lead or pastor this group of musicians. Sounds like a great thing to explore in a future post.

    Where do you lead worship?

  6. oh no…leave the red hot chili pepper posters on the wall! they are a great band…just not a worship band! but it sure would be nice to see them leading god’s people in worshipping the king!

    it really is bigger than music. and more than anything, worship does not require music. worship does not even require us to speak or sing. words are not mandatory. instead it is our hearts being fixed on him in all things. this is why it is important that we know his word and remain obedient to it. by the way, obedience does not mean legalism. obedience means knowing our own imperfections and daily ridding ourselves of them by the washing of the word and renewing of our minds. if our hearts and minds are not right before him, our worship will be like the offerings of cain…and you know what god thought about cain.

    currently, i only lead worship for a small group that meets the 1st and 3rd sundays at my house. i used to lead worship for a calvary chapel in riverside, nj but removed myself because of sin issues that i allowed to consume me. i damaged my marriage pretty good…but when i repented the lord began to repair it daily. i dont know if i will ever take on as formal of a role as i had previously. i think the lord may have bigger things in mind. but i am open to whatever he wants to do…its safe that way!

  7. Luke 15:1-2
    Jesus weighs in on the issue . . .
    Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him.
    But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

    Study how much Jesus talks about worship as we think about it today – you won’t find much. I feel like you are missing the point of God’s grace.

  8. We are all made “in His image.” Although, I think you can use others who are only seeking, you must consider it “with fear and trembling.” What’s going on IS a big deal, and yet, no one can tell me that we all (professing or non-professing) are not able to worship God appropriately. He MADE us ALL that way. (and we all struggle with that “brokenness” whether it is a remeberance -see Paul’s comments on that- that haunts us or a current reality that we long to overcome…

  9. Hey Scot. Thanks for popping by.

    Too much in the comments above to respond to all of it…

    End of the day… I’d prefer to have musicians up there with me who know the Creator of whom we sing… just because there seems to be a synergy that happens when we’re all on the same page…

    But who knows the condition of the heart, anyway? The “on-fire” guys who we would all love to put on stage may just be better at concealing their sin (myself included!) than the guys who play in the clubs, bars, etc.

    I can see using the Sunday AM gig as an outreach of sorts to local musicians, but personally, would rather go to them – that means me going to open jam nights at clubs / bars, etc – than expect them to come to us…

  10. Tony makes a great point about getting out into the clubs, bars, and open mic nites for the purpose of engaging in relationship. I would say that is an incredible form of worship. Jesus would do it. Why don’t we.
    Thanks Tony!

  11. Hi just want some feedback about what you think about bringing in worship pastor fom another Country to lead a church totally different culture when God has provided people within the congregation that needed to be released.

  12. i’m amazed that you guys exchange ideas here… i enjoyed reading the trail… it portrays humility with wisdom and a good heart from you guys… this would help me a lot in my leadership…

  13. My question is simple: why can’t it be both? I recognize that not all churches are blessed with both, but for the churches that are, it is critical that we strive for both excellence and maturity. I am Pastor of Worship over a church of roughly 1,200 and we have people all over the map on both issues. For those that are spiritually mature, but possess average musical talent, we mentor them and encourage them to hone their skills. For those that are musically gifted but are new or young Christians, we work intentionally on the spiritual formation piece. In this way, we are not settling for one or the other, and we make it clear that THE most important thing to us as leaders is not their music, its their soul.

  14. How many times we have been disappointed with God’s chosen children who have not developed their talents. Yet I believe that is who we are to use for worship leaders. In the inauguration of the temple the second group of people, only after the priests, to be chosen were the musicians. They were not pulled in from the local bars and community gathering spots. They were from God’s chosen people who were then given a responsibility. The worship service also in the New Testament (Corinthians) is not about unbelievers taking part except for being there and needing to understand what was being said.